Saturday, November 8, 2014

And as I am singing, the gates open before me



I look around at the people rejoicing at the sight of the Ark, and applauding me along the way, which puts me in a heightened state of reflection. I promise myself that I will never let them down. I hope that through this momentous occasion—which will allow me to create a spiritual center in my city, the City of David—I can start molding them into one nation. 
One of the Levites glances at me, as if to remind me of something.
“What?” I ask, snapping out of my thoughts. 
“Again?”
“Oh yes. Again.”
Perhaps it is the smell of blood, together with the sense of mystery, that bring to my mind the dangers lurking ahead—not just on this journey, and not just in my generation, but in generations to come. Somehow I foresee, right here and now, how our offspring will be lead, powerless, to the brink of extinction. 
I shudder to see the calf, held with a knife to its throat, fall to its knees before the sacrifice. Sharply has its last bleat died down. 
Then it is placed on the bronze altar, and carefully arranged into position between all the odd implements: the pails for removing ashes, and the shovels and basins and forks and fire pans and the utensils of bronze. In a flash, its body is completely consumed by fire. Nothing but ash remains. 
This burnt offering is a vision of our future. 
This calf is us. 
I feel an overwhelming sadness, and to escape its grip I begin to dance. I dance because this is our moment, because the future is faraway and the dangers it holds are still obscure. With enough joy, enough energy in all of us, perhaps we can change its course. 
Denial is bliss.
I give it everything I have. I dance with abandon. I dance with all my might.
As we come near the walls of the city I hear shouts, cheers, and the sound of trumpets, which spurs me to cry out, to sing. And as I am singing, the gates open before me.

Sing to the Lord, all the earth
   Proclaim His salvation day after day.
Declare His glory among the nations
   His marvelous deeds among all peoples

David in A Peek at Bathsheba narrated by the gifted Justin Harmer

David is leading the procession, bringing the lost ark back to Jerusalem, and a long the way sacrificing a calf every seven steps. His thoughts take him forward to the distant future, beyond his lifetime, envisioning his people led to the slaughter.

The inspiration for this passage came from a modern painting by Ivan Schwebel, David whirls with all his might before the Lord, which is set in Auschwitz arrivals platform. It is starkly different from other paintings on the subject. Some artists concentrate on the childlike excitement of 'dancing with all his might.' You can see this approach in the paintings Le Roi David by Joan Miro, and King David Dancing Naked Before the Ark of God,  by Robert Nankin. Other artists concentrate on the relationship between Michal, daughter of Saul, who despises David for exposing himself in public while dancing, at times they protect David's reputation by showing him as a holy man, a psalmist, with a long robe, while setting Michal in the shadow, with the one thing she presents to us is her bottom... And sometimes they go the other way, seeing things from Michal's point of view, where David has an exceedingly short tunic.

My writing does not choose one approach over the other--it reflects all of them, depending on the point of view of the character. But above all I am inspired by the suggestion of David's vision of the holocaust in this passage.

                        Le Roi David                     King David Dancing Naked Before the Ark of God
                        by Joan Miro                                             by Robert Nankin


David whirls with all his might before the Lord 
Auschwitz arrivals platform, 111x151cm, 1992
Ivan Schwebel


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